February 9, 2011

Incoming class size on track

The class of 2015, although on target to be similar in size to the class of 2014, may be significantly more colorful.

As of last week, 37 percent of applications for the class of 2015 were from students of color, compared to 29 percent for the class of 2014. Dean of Admission Paul Steenis pointed to an increased number of applications from prospective students living in Chicago, which has large African-American and Hispanic populations.

Aside from that, however, the class of 2015 will most likely be very similar demographically to previous classes, with the gender balance remaining close to 60 percent women and 40 percent men. This ratio is not uncommon at liberal arts colleges, Steenis said.

“I don’t think I’ve gone to a conference in the past 15 years where one of the topics hasn’t been…’where are the males?’” Steenis said.

Some colleges have tried to achieve a perfectly balanced gender ratio with mixed success. Union College in Schenectady, New York recently added several engineering minors in an attempt to draw more males to the school. While the initiative was successful, there remains controversy about using traditionally male-dominated fields to attract more men to colleges.

“While having a 50-50 ratio is a priority at many institutions, as an institution [Knox] hasn’t been concerned about it,” Steenis said. “We are very concerned about making sure that men are well-represented in recruitment publications … we certainly don’t want to perpetuate the situation.”

The biggest challenge for the Admissions Office, as Steenis sees it, is money, not demographics.

“Our biggest challenge right now is helping families afford higher education,” he said. “I think we’re more committed to this than some other institutions because we’re…committed to working with first generation college students and low and middle income families.”

The amount of financial aid given to Knox students has risen slightly during the last several years, with 67 percent of students receiving need-based aid for the 2009-2010 school year.

Though economic hardships are unlikely to abate in the near future, Steenis forecasts that overall enrollment will not decline for the 2011-2012 school year. President Roger Taylor’s February report to the faculty stated that the Admissions Office had received 1,998 applications as of Jan. 28, compared to 1,919 at this time last year. Of these, 928 have been accepted for admission.

About 20 percent of accepted students will end up attending Knox, Steenis said. This and other projections, such as retention and graduation rates, help Steenis determine how many new students Knox needs in order to not decrease the size of the student body.

“I use something called an equilibrium model, which makes certain assumptions about retention,” he said. “With these numbers, one needs about 360 students to maintain a steady enrollment.”

With 360 freshmen students and 994 expected returning students, Admissions is just shy of the Board of Trustees’ 1,350-student target for 2011-2012. A small number of transfer students will hopefully fill this gap.

With the increased number of applications has come an increased number of visitors. About 1,545 students have visited Knox so far this school year, up five percent from 2009-2010. The Admissions Office was recently remodeled to accommodate the greater number of visitors, adding a larger and more attractive lobby area.

The Admissions Office expects to see 2,500 visitors before the end of the 2010-2011 school year.

Anna Meier

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